Springfield Cardinals Notebook: 2011 Week 18

The Cardinals remain in a tight battle for a second-half Texas League playoff berth as Zack Cox keeps hitting.

Suddenly finding themselves back in the pennant race, the Springfield Cardinals headed out on the road for a seven-game trip.

Springfield had won game one of the series against Arkansas on Tuesday, but on Wednesday night they dropped their first game in August. Matt Shoemaker got the start for Arkansas, and he has been nothing short of dominant all season long. But on this night, the Cardinals knocked him around for six runs in five innings of work. Even after the beating, his ERA stood at 2.47. Even with the offense, the Cardinals starter fared even worse. Mike Blazek was knocked out of the game after four innings, giving up five runs, three earned on four hits, but walking six. The Cardinals got two RBI each from Chris Swauger and Zack Cox. Matt Adams also went 2-for-4 with an RBI. Although Blazek took the loss, the knockout blow for the Cardinals came when Scott Schneider surrendered four runs in his two innings of relief work. Springfield dropped game two of the series, 11-7.

On Thursday, Springfield sent Shelby Miller to the hill for the rubber match of the series. Miller had been called out by the Springfield coaching staff following his previous outing (4 IP, 3 ER, 6 H, 3 BB), as they made it clear that they expected more. Miller certainly rose to the challenge. He went six innings, giving up just one run on one hit, although he did walk three. Miller didn't allow a single hit until the sixth inning. He also registered four strikeouts on his way to cruising to his seventh Texas League win. Ryan Jackson went 3-for-5 with a home run and four RBI and the Cardinals got a pair of RBI from Matt Adams. Zack Cox went 4-for-5 with an RBI. With his 4-for-5 performance, he raised his season batting average above .300 for the first time since May 30, his sixth game in Double-A. Springfield took the ballgame and the series with an 8-1 victory.

The Cardinals traveled to Tulsa for a three-game set starting Friday, and they opened the series with a 4-2 win behind the pitching effort of Joe Kelly. Kelly went 6 1/3 innings, giving up two earned runs on seven hits. Kelly also struck out five, while walking one. Kelly is now 2-0, with a 2.51 ERA in two road starts, but is 1-2, with a 8.14 ERA in four starts at home in Double-A. The Cardinals got all of the offense they needed when Matt Adams knocked his 25th home run of the season out of the ballpark, bringing in three runs with one swing of the bat. The bullpen turned in two scoreless frames, as Samuel Freeman worked the eighth and David Kopp came in to nail down his fourth save in the ninth.

Looking to make it three in a row on Saturday night, the Cardinals showed up to OneOK Field in Tulsa, only to have Mother Nature push the affair back one day.

In the first game of the double-header on Sunday afternoon, the Cardinals indeed made it three in a row. John Gast took the start and put his previous road struggles aside. He went the distance, allowing just three runs on eight hits in seven innings of work, to earn his first Double-A complete game. Gast improved to 4-1, with a 3.88 ERA in the Texas League. The Springfield offense was powered by the return of Donovan Solano. Solano went 1-for-4, but he hit a grand slam in his first at-bat back in Double-A. That was all of the offense that Gast needed, as the Cardinals took game one, 9-3.

Looking to sweep the double dip and take the series, the Cardinals sent Nick Additon to the hill. Additon only made it four innings, giving up two runs on four hits, while striking out two. Unfortunately, two runs were all that Drillers' starter Rob Scahill needed. Scahill earned the complete game, giving up one run on eight hits, while walking two. In his seven innings of work, he failed to notch a single strikeout. The only blemish on Scahill's line was the 26th home run of the season off the bat of Matt Adams. Tulsa took game two of the double-header, 4-1.

Springfield looked to win another series as they showed up to the ballpark on Monday night, but it was not to be. Mike Blazek made the start, and was tagged with his second straight loss. Blazek went five innings, allowing four runs on five hits, but he did strike out nine, the second time that he has done so this season. Francisco Samuel was called out of the bullpen in relief of Blazek, but unfortunately he would not provide any relief. Samuel was knocked around for four runs on two hits and three walks, and he did not record a single out in the sixth inning. That was all part of an eight-run sixth inning for Tulsa, as they put the game out of reach. Eric Duncan added a home run in the ninth for Springfield, his 16th home run of the season. Zack Cox was 2-for-3 with two RBI, to raise his season average to .306. Unfortunately, there wasn't much offense outside of Cox and Duncan, as Springfield dropped the series finale, 12-4.

Who's Hot

Zack Cox – It's getting tough to think of ways to keep Zack Cox out of this spot. Cox is hitting .405 with six RBI over his last ten games, and is hitting an even .500 (9-for-18) in his last five games.

The lefty duo of Nick Greenwood and Samuel Freeman - Freeman has given up just one earned run in his last 10 innings of work, including his last five innings being scoreless. Greenwood has four straight appearances (five innings) in which he has not allowed a run. Greenwood has given up 28 earned runs in 61 2/3 innings this season. Of those 28 earned runs, 24 have come against the Northwest Arkansas Naturals, in 12 1/3 innings of work, for a 17.51 ERA. Against the rest of the league, Greenwood is 1-1, with a 0.73 ERA.

How They Stack Up

Second half standings – Texas League North

W L PCT GB Home  Away  Div Streak Last10
NW Arkansas 23 21 .523 - 12-9 11-12 17-15 L1 5-5
Springfield 21 23 .477 2.0 11-12 10-11 15-17 L2 6-4
Tulsa 21 23 .477 2.0 10-13 11-10 17-15 W2 4-6
Arkansas 20 24 .455 3.0 10-11 10-13 15-17 W1 5-5

The Cardinal Nation Top 40 Prospect Watch

#35 Francisco Samuel – Samuel had yielded just one run in six innings of work since being sent back to Springfield heading into Monday night. Then the wheels fell off. Samuel gave up four earned runs on two hits, while walking three… all without recording a single out. Samuel's ERA went from 1.50 heading into Monday, to a now-garish 7.50.

#34 Ryan Jackson – Following a week in which he was named Texas League Player of the Week, Jackson was 9-for-36 (.250) over his last 10 games, with a homer and eight RBI. Jackson is now batting .280 with 10 home runs and 66 RBI on the season.

#33 Matt Adams – Entering the game at Tulsa on Friday, Adams had not hit a home run in nine games. In the next four games, he launched two. Adams is hitting .294, with two homers and six RBI in his last five games. Adams is now hitting .321, with 26 home runs and 88 RBI on the season. These numbers rank him fifth in the Texas League in batting average, second in home runs and he has opened up a nine RBI lead in the third leg of the Triple Crown. Adams continues to lead the league with a .609 slugging percentage and is hitting a home run every 13.88 at bats, also tops in the Texas League.

#28 John Gast – Gast had struggled on the road. He was 1-1, and had allowed 17 runs in 23 innings of work (6.65 ERA), before his start on Sunday in Tulsa. In game one of the double-header, Gast earned a complete-game victory, giving up three runs on eight hits in seven innings of work. Gast is now 4-1, with a 3.88 ERA in eight Texas League starts.

#27 Joe Kelly – Kelly had been the exact opposite of Gast - he couldn't win at home but he was nails on the road. Kelly continued his hot pitching away from Hammons Field. He went 6 1/3 innings, giving up just two runs on seven hits as he earned his third win. Kelly is now 3-2, with a 5.86 ERA for Springfield. Kelly is now 2-0, with a 2.51 ERA on the road and is 1-2, with an 8.14 ERA at home.

#23 David Kopp – Kopp has looked much better coming out of the bullpen, consistently hitting the mid to high nineties with the fastball. Since being moved to relief, he is 1-0 with a 1.69 ERA in 16 innings of work. Kopp has been given the closer's role and has nailed down all four saves since taking the job.

#19 Tommy Pham – On the club's disabled list.

#18 Deryk Hooker – On the club's disabled list. Pitching in rehab games in the Gulf Coast League.

#2 Zack Cox – Cox was hitting .200 on June 30. He is now hitting .306. Cox has been one of the hottest hitters in all of Minor League Baseball, as he owns the fifth-highest batting average (.399) of any full season minor leaguer that has played in 30 games since June 30. Cox is now hitting .306 with five home runs and 35 RBI on the season.

#1 Shelby Miller – In his previous start, Miller could only go four-plus innings, giving up three earned runs on six hits, while he did strike out seven. Miller had a meeting with the his coaching staff, and it was pretty clear that they expected more. Miller certainly delivered. Shelby didn't allow a base hit until the sixth inning against Arkansas on Thursday, when former and future big leaguer, Mike Trout, broke up the no hitter. Miller earned the win, giving up just one run on one hit in six innings of work. Miller is now 7-2, with a 2.48 ERA on the season.

Up Next

The Springfield Cardinals will open up a six-game homestand on Wednesday night, as they welcome the owners of the best record in the Texas League, San Antonio, to Hammons Field. Following the Missions, the Cardinals have a three-game series with Corpus Christi starting on Saturday.

Springfield currently finds itself two games back of Northwest Arkansas for first place in the second half standings. Springfield still has four games against the Naturals this season, all of them at home.

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